Australia’s decision not to repatriate more than 30 women and children from a detention camp in northeast Syria is facing a legal challenge. The women are the wives and widows of Islamic State fighters and have been held in custody for the past four years.
The charity Save the Children is taking legal action Tuesday in Federal Court against Australia’s Home Affairs Department, demanding the return of the Australian citizens and their children. Campaigners have insisted the group's detention is unlawful.
Many of the women have insisted they were coerced or forced into traveling to Syria. Most of their husbands are dead or in prison.
Campaigners have argued the children living in the detention camp in Syria are in 'grave danger.’
Mat Tinkler, the head of Save the Children Australia, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the youngsters need to be brought home immediately.
“I know first-hand from having been there this is one of the worst places in the world to be a child," Tinkler said. "These people are living in the Syrian desert. The temperatures are extraordinary; the heat of the summer, the freezing cold of the winter. (There is) very limited access to healthcare for the children. Many of them are suffering from significant medical conditions that have not been treated adequately. So, there is no good reason why they remain there in our view.”
The detainees have been living in the camp in northeastern Syria since the Islamic State militant group was defeated in 2019.
Earlier this year, several western countries, including France, Canada and the United States, repatriated citizens from Syria.
Last year, the Canberra government brought home 17 Australian citizens from the camp but it is refusing to bring any more home.
Those who have been repatriated are reported to be settling in to life in Australia. Officials have said previously that “extensive support services” would help them reintegrate into Australia.
The Australian government has argued it does not have control over the women and children and that the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria holds “complete and unfettered discretion” on repatriations.